A Classic Dresser

Jan 23, 2018 | Hemp Oil | 0 comments

The time has come to start sharing some of the beautiful pieces that I’ll be bringing with me to the Food for Families Fundraiser in February.  (Wow!  That’s a lot of words starting with “F”, isn’t it?)  If you missed my announcement, you can read all about it here, but basically I’ll be participating as a vendor in an upcoming fundraiser benefitting the Twin Valley Food Pantry in February.  I’ve busy in the workshop getting pieces ready to bring with me, and I’m at the point where I have a few painted and photographed!

The first I have to share with you is this beautiful vintage dresser.  When I saw it on Facebook Marketplace, I loved everything about it.  The shape, the size and the handles won me over immediately. 

I picked it up just down the road from where I live from a wonderful war veteran who runs his own J Dog Junk Removal Franchise.  He was super helpful and I was more than happy to purchase the dresser from him and help support his business.

I started the makeover process by removing all of the beautiful handles while my Mom cleaned out the drawers and gave the piece a thorough scuff.  Once the body of the dresser was prepped, I got out my CitriStrip and started work on the top, stripping away the old worn finish.  I dribbled my stripper on, spread it out, let it sit, and gently scraped away the “goop” when it was ready.  To make sure I got it all off, I cleaned the wood with odorless mineral spirits and 0000 grade steel wool.  If you want to learn more about this process, you can read my blog post about it here or watch my video below.

Once the top was clean and “goop” free, I gave it a gentle sanding using my orbital sander.  I started with 120 grit and worked my way up to 150 and then 220 grit.  The result was a top as smooth as glass.  I envisioned a classic look for the dresser, so I went with my go-to stain, General Finishes Java Gel.  You can watch the staining processes below from my Facebook live post.


After the top was stained, I went to work on the bottom.  Now typically, the order that I follow when I’m working on a painted piece with a stained top is something like this:

  1. Strip top with CitriStrip
  2. Clean top with Odorless Mineral Spirits and Steel Wool
  3. Sand top with Orbital Sander to 220 grit
  4. Stain top with General Finishes Java Gel Stain
  5. Paint bottom with Miss Mustard Seed’s Milk Paint
  6. Seal bottom with MMSMP Wax, Hemp Oil, or Tough Coat
  7. Seal top with General Finishes High Performance Topcoat in either Flat, Satin, or Semi Gloss (depends on how shiny I want the finish to be!)

I’ve found this combination to work well for me because when I’ve painted the bottom first and then stained the top, I ALWAYS dribble stain onto my freshly painted bottom.  It’s inevitable.  So to avoid that, I stain first and then paint.  That way, if I dribble stain, it won’t go over my nice neat paint job!  It’s much easier to stain over paint than to paint over stain.  (Does that make sense?)  Now there’s no right or wrong order to do this.  I’m simply sharing what works for me.  You do you, boo-boo!

Okay, so back to painting the dresser.  My paint of choice was Miss Mustard Seed’s Milk Paint (of course) and I decided to mix equal parts Trophy…

… and Grain Sack.

This mixture gave me the mid-tone gray color of Trophy that I wanted with the beautiful faded quality of Grain Sack.  It really was such a lovely mixture and I’m eager to use it again!

The dresser had a dark stain on it prior to painting and it showed through a little too much to my liking after I had finished two coats, so a third was just the trick.  I gave the dresser an all-over light sanding with 400 grit sandpaper to get a super smooth finish.  I didn’t distress around the edges like I usually do because like I mentioned earlier, I wanted to go for a classic look.  My last step on the body was to seal the Milk Paint with Hemp Oil.

Once the body was finished, I sealed the stained top with General Finishes High Performance Topcoat.  The reason why I waited to seal it until after I was finished painting was to be able to fix any flecks of paint that may have been flicked up onto the stained surface.  Again, there’s no right or wrong order for this process.  This is what works for me, so I’m sharing it!  The video below was from my Instagram live feed, and it shows you how I did applied the water-based finish over my stain.


Once the top was stained and sealed, I shined the handles up with a bit of Hemp Oil and put them back on.  This morning, my Dad and I hauled the dresser upstairs for a proper photo shoot.

Pretty, huh?  I’ll be bringing just about everything in this photo with me to the fundraiser on 2/2 and 2/3.  I repurposed some porch balusters and made them into taper candlesticks.  My Dad helped me cut off bits from the top and bottom with the circular saw so they sit flat.  I used a paddle drill bit to make a small hole in the top for a candle to fit, and sealed the original paint with Tough Coat.

I’ll be bringing bunches of dried lavender with me too, although I haven’t decided if I’m bringing the ironstone bowl.  I’m really loving it at the moment and I’m not quite sure if I’m ready to part with it just yet.

The mirror is coming with me too.  It’s made of oak and my Mom gave it a few coats of Farmhouse White.  It’s heavier than it looks, so I made sure to install hefty hanging hardware on the back.  I really like its “stacked” profile.

The dresser turned out amazing.  I’m so pleased with the color I created with Trophy and Grain Sack.  It plays well with the rich stained top and the warmth of the handles.

Oh those handles!  Doesn’t their patina make them look like they’re blushing?

I was intentional about creating clean lines along the drawers in keeping with the classic feel of the piece.

The dresser was made by the Johnson Furniture Company in Grand Rapids Michigan.

I did some research on the manufacturer and here’s a photo of their building.

Based on the maker’s mark on the inside of the top drawer, my dresser was made in the 1950’s.

So if you’re in the market for a classic dresser with a fabulous finish, this one will be waiting for you at Conestoga Mennonite Church on 2/2 and 2/3.

Here are the details again for the fundraiser if you’d like to pop by:

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I'm Jenn Baker - Milk Paint lover, photographer, blogger, and QVC Guest Host. Click below to learn more about me and my creative business.  LEARN MORE ABOUT JENN

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